Those flapping zinc panels on U.S. Bank Stadium are being reinforced ahead of opening day next week.

Mortenson Construction executive John Wood said about two dozen of the thousands of panels were blowing in the wind after recent storms. The panels, attached along the bottom edge, were never at risk of flying off, but they are being reinforced with screws along the top.

Wood’s update was one of the discussions at the final monthly meeting of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) before the new $1.1 billion building’s ribbon-cutting Friday.

The panel also agreed to a $300,000, three-year study to determine whether the stadium is deadly to birds and agreed to the continued full-time employment, at a cost of close to $300,000 annually, of two taxpayer-funded executives to oversee the building’s operations and marketing.

Regarding the black zinc panels, Wood said they act as a rain screen over the building’s moisture barrier. Thousands of panels line the exterior. They’re 12 inches high and range in length from 6 to 12 feet depending on location. During construction, he said, crews noticed wind pressures were higher than anticipated on some points of the structure, especially the west prow, high along the northeastern wall and on the corners.

In the past week, workers in their neon yellow vests could be seen dangling from the top of the structure to reinforce the tiles on the critical spots. Wood said the work — and the remaining 100 to 150 items on the final punch list — will be complete by the ribbon-cutting. He told the MSFA that the building “will be perfect.”

Wood also confirmed that Mortenson had accepted the $19 million mediation settlement worked out this year with the MSFA over who should pay for design changes. If Mortenson had rejected the settlement, the dispute could have gone to binding arbitration.

The MSFA approved job descriptions for Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and executive director Ted Mondale that allow both to stay in their full-time jobs when the building opens.

In brief comments, Mondale said “$56 million a year will run through the building,” so oversight is important. The panel approved the arrangement, which had previously been criticized as duplicative, on a unanimous voice vote.

MSFA member Tony Sertich said U.S. Bank Stadium is a “very unique facility” with “many moving parts” to its operation that make it beyond comparison with other sports facilities. He said Kelm-Helgen and Mondale, who are paid by the state $130,175 and $165,333, respectively, are “laser-focused” on making the operation of the “people’s stadium” successful.

According to a breakdown of duties, Mondale will focus more on operations while Kelm-Helgen will handle marketing. Both have “liaison” duties with partners as well as overseeing the work of SMG, the global giant hired to promote, book and run the stadium.

The MSFA also agreed to split the cost of the bird study with the Vikings to determine whether birds hit the building during migratory seasons along the Mississippi River flyway.

The study will cover four migratory seasons with results and recommendations reported in June 2019. The duration will allow a “statistically significant” gathering of data, Kelm-Helgen said. She added that construction crews haven’t seen dead or injured birds around the building.

MSFA member John Griffith said $300,000 “just seems like a lot of money” to study bird deaths.

Environmentalists for months have been concerned the mirror-like glass on the building’s exterior would confuse birds and cause deadly collisions. They initially sought the installation of bird-safe glass, but that was rejected. In previous meetings, Kelm-Helgen talked about testing a translucent film on the glass, but that hasn’t occurred.

The study will be overseen by the Minnesota Audubon Society. Ann Laughlin and Jerry Bahls, citizen-activists who regularly attend MSFA meetings, addressed the study during public comments. Bahls called it a “very important step” in acknowledging a potential problem.

Laughlin, however, expressed disappointment that the MSFA waited so long when something could have been done when the building was designed.


Twitter: @rochelleolson